Voice of the Customer (VoC), a term coined by Abbie Griffin and John R. Hauser in a 1993 MIT paper, is a statement of your customers’ experiences, feelings and expectations regarding your brand.
To capture VoC, brands gather data from and about customers through reviews, surveys, interviews and metrics. They then use this information to fuel their understanding of customers’ desires, expectations, preferences and needs related to their brand, offerings or industry.
The data gathered lets companies align products and customer service with customer desires, allowing them to meet expectations in areas such as cost, quality, safety and social and environmental responsibility. This is why a VoC program can serve as the basis for optimizing overall customer experience (CX).
Despite the benefits of Voice of the Customer programs, many business leaders don’t quite understand what they entail and how to use them. The following will explain the intricacies of VoC and how it can help create exceptional customer experiences.
Benefits of a Successful VoC Program:
More Effective Campaigns
VoC programs capture your marketing and sales teams’ data to create smart, targeted campaigns that deliver excellent CX along every touchpoint in the customer journey.
Improved Products and Services
Brands can use VoC programs to design and produce better products and are instrumental in improving products and services to provide exceptional customer experiences.
Increased Customer Retention Rates
It’s no surprise that VoC programs lead to increased retention rates. According to one report from Aberdeen Group, VoC programs increase customer retention by up to 55%.
Greater Overall Profits
According to Harvard Business School, increasing retention by 5% increases profits anywhere from 25% to 95%. VoC also decreases customer services costs each year by more than 23%, improves opportunities for cross-selling and increases revenue by 48% year-over-year (Aberdeen Group).
These are the 3 Critical Steps of the VoC Process:
1. Gathering Customer Feedback
Gathering customer feedback is the first step in any VoC program. Remember: the key to success is to find multiple rich data sources. If you don’t, the insights you gather could be incomplete or unhelpful.
You can gather data along each touchpoint in the customer journey. You can capture information through a number of methods such as Surveys, Reviews, Chat logs, Forum posts, Feedback forms, Website analytics, Mobile App data, Customer Service interactions, and Social listening and engagement.
Once you have the right kind of data, you can enter it into spreadsheets or specialized VoC platforms and move on to the next step: analysis. If you’re looking for a VoC data platform, common options include Qualtrics, Medallia, InMoment and NICE Satmetrix.
2. Analyzing Data
Now it’s time to analyze the data you’ve gathered to uncover trends, expectations, needs, desires and pain points, leads that will eventually become actionable insights.
Brands use these uncovered trends to optimize certain processes, such as creating product and service offering benchmarks, as well as to craft customer follow-up questions and better understand individual customer experiences.
Many VoC platforms facilitate the creation of analytics reports by separating feedback by keyword, phrase, product or specific metrics.
3. Utilizing Actionable Insights
With your data analysis complete, it’s time to act on those new insights. Your action plan will look different depending on both your VoC-related goals and the results of your analysis.
Critical areas where you can use trends to optimize your brand include:
- Products: Make design changes, adjust price points, announce new product launches, etc.
- Customer service: Implement new training programs or purchase additional employee tools.
- Sales: Introduce one-click purchasing, create guest checkout, reduce friction areas, etc.
- Customer communication: Expand to more channels, reduce response wait times, introduce live chat, etc.
- Websites: Develop easier navigation, increase font size or improve mobile functionality.
- Apps: Offer more download opportunities or decrease media asset load times.
- Marketing: Shift style or tone of branding messages, change frequency of campaigns, optimize send times, etc.
3 Types of Feedback Used in a VoC Program:
Direct feedback is collected directly from the customer. It often involves asking questions, such as “How likely are you to buy from us again?” or “On a scale of 1–5, how satisfied were you with your experience?”
Businesses have many options for soliciting direct feedback, including:
- Surveys: Typically conducted online, they can provide very specific feedback about known issues. Don’t neglect the option of in-person surveys as a way to gather more in-depth feedback. Keep surveys concise, and make it easy for customers to participate.
- Live chat: 48% of people prefer this avenue for contacting a company, according to Microsoft. Brands can capture VoC data from chat logs as well.
- Recorded calls: they capture customer expectations and perceptions. This method can require a significant time investment. However, it provides valuable data regarding customer pain points
- Focus groups: This method is ideal for verifying insights gained from surveys and interviews. Gathering a dozen or so customers to share opinions across your company’s touchpoints can be especially valuable when you want to test new concepts or priorities.
- Feedback forms: Adding a feedback form to your website makes it easy for customers and prospects to share their voice at any time. A consistent set of thought-provoking prompts can provide long-term data. You can also add questions to capture VoC on immediate issues.
Indirect feedback is when a customer speaks about a brand but not to the brand itself. Social listening can help companies in this regard, allowing your organization to track mentions on social media, in reviews and within industry articles. You can glean valuable indirect feedback from the following sources:
- Social media: Enables real-time conversations directly with customers. Often allows brands to solve problems before they mushroom — if they act quickly enough. Feedback gathered this way is valuable because it often lacks a filter. However, it can be hard to quantify.
- Online reviews: Nearly all of today’s customers (95%) read reviews, and 86% say they’re essential when making a purchasing decision (PowerReviews). Therefore, it only seems natural that reviews will provide an insightful window into VoC.
Inferred feedback is behavioral, transactional and operational data from a brand’s website, email marketing and mobile apps.
Examples of inferred feedback include click-throughs, transactions, purchases, time on page, and shopping cart abandonment.
Tools such as Google Analytics exist online to help you collect this data.
What Are Some of the Key VoC Metrics?
Understanding and measuring key VoC metrics is the key to uncovering actionable insights. Each of the following key metrics looks at a different aspect of the customer journey, such as ease of use, satisfaction, and customer loyalty:
- Net Promoter Score (NPS): Tells a brand if a customer would recommend its product, service or business to others.
- Customer Effort Score (CES): Defines the effort required for a customer to do business with a brand.
- Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT): Reveals whether customers are satisfied with their interactions with your brand.
- Customer Loyalty Index (CLI): Measures customer loyalty and indicates whether they will be a repeat customer.
- Customer Lifetime Value (CLV): Measures an individual customer’s potential revenue based on past, current and anticipated future spending trends.
- Repurchase Ratio: Looks at whether the customer will purchase from the brand again.
- Would You Miss Us? (WYMU): Asks if a customer would miss the brand if it no longer existed.
Keep in mind that the metrics you choose to collect and analyze should fit your brand’s goals, and you want to remember not to lose sight of the actual feedback received from customers when bogged down in this data.
What to Do When a VoC Program Produces Negative Results
Is your VoC program producing negative results? Well, that could be both a good and bad thing.
While it’s always nice to receive positive feedback, negative comments offer real opportunities to grow.
For instance, say our CES metric comes back with poor results. You can use this information to spur a deep dive into your website, allowing you to identify potential issues and bottlenecks. Once you’ve identified these problems, you can eliminate them, improving overall CX.
On the other hand, poor results could mean you’re doing something wrong in your overall VoC strategy. You might be:
- Asking the wrong questions
- Using unprocessed or messy data
- Misconfiguring data during analysis
VoC programs allow brands to use feedback to better understand how customers think and feel, illuminating an important part of the decision-making process.
Today, Voice of the Customer is integral to many business strategies. The benefits of such a program touch all areas of a company, spanning beyond marketing, sales and customer service, and ensuring that brands can create exceptional customer experiences and stand out from competitors.